How do you serve?

Maj. Justin Barry, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander

Maj. Justin Barry, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Last week, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Marson wrote a great editorial in which he discussed integrity and excellence. I will continue in that vein and discuss what I believe Service means; and more specifically, how we can most effectively serve.

Several years ago, as I prepared to leave Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., for Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to take command of my first squadron, my group commander gave me a piece of advice that remains with me. He told me simply, "Never forget, that to command is to serve." Over the intervening years, and now in my second command, I have often returned to that advice to help guide my choices and to ponder the many subtle nuances inherent in that short sentence.

Many serve our great nation. Whether a military member, government civil service, a family member or government contractor, you provide for the defense of this great nation. But when did you last consider how you serve, or how to make your service most effective?

I have come to believe that effective service begins first with understanding. Understanding the goals and needs of your nation and the Department of Defense, certainly, but that is a bit loftier than I am shooting for here. At the level of mission execution, where we live and work every day, we must strive to understand the needs and goals of our unit, our boss and our people.

Strive to understand: 1. Where your leaders are trying to take the unit; 2. How that direction supports the demands and needs of the mission; 3. What the people working with, around, and for you will need to make that happen; and, 4. How you fit into that larger scope. From there, you can determine what you can do to further these goals and how to execute the missions with which we are presented.

Following understanding, you have to commit to doing those things right and necessary in order to further these goals. Not by accident or happenstance is it, that when we enlist, reenlist, or accept a commission, we incur an "Active Duty Service Commitment." Famously, our brethren of the Marine Corps ran a recruiting campaign which stated simply, "We Don't Accept Applications, Only Commitments." Committing to the achievement of our goals implies that you understand success is not often easy or simple. Committing means you understand that success will require hard work and sacrifice. Committing to a goal means that you consciously decide to act and persevere through fog and friction; that you will do all things within your power to ensure success. Your level of commitment directly impacts how successful we are in our charter to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

As a commander, I understand what we ask of you and your families is at times difficult. I understand that at times, the hours are long and the conditions austere. Know that I and all commanders are committed to providing meaningful and understandable goals, which support the needs of those above us. Further, we commit to ensuring those working with, around, and for us are provided with the most appropriate support, training, equipment, and organizational structure possible to meet the demands of our mission.

Every day I marvel at the achievements and successes of our military branches and our personnel. It's a privilege to see the commitment to service which you embody. Continue to strive for understanding and commit to action. The demands are great, but you are up to the task. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you in advance for all that you will do for our great nation.